When the top students at Tooele High School triumphantly received their scholarships at graduation this year, the name of Mary Evelyn England Hullinger Norris will be remembered — as it has been for over two decades.
Mary, who recently passed away at age 84 after a battle with cancer, was born and raised in Tooele. She and her husband Tom thought education was essential and, to help others reach the goal they never obtained, the couple created The Old Miner’s scholarship for each valedictorian and salutorian at Tooele High School.
In addition, they contributed to several other educational programs in Tooele County.
In the late ‘70s, Mary and Tom drove into the driveway of former Tooele High School principal, Paul Skyles. Tom gave Skyles 100 shares of AT&T stock, which dividends were to be used for scholarships. Less than a year later, Tom donated an extra 100 shares of stock to increase the scholarships for the valedictorian and salutatorian.
One scholarship is around $19,000 and the other is approximately $15,000. Mary hoped the money would not only help students attend college, but also help them enjoy it more, as they wouldn’t have to worry as much about money.
Skyles said the scholarships have “a great impact on students because it gives them a goal to work toward.”
Mary’s daughter-in-law, Rosemary Hullinger, usually presents the scholarships when she’s in town.
“Tom just felt like if they worked hard enough to deserve that money, they deserve that money, and it’s actually a cash check,” said Hullinger. “If they don’t go on to school they can use the money. There are no stipulations on that even.”
Since Mary lived out of state, Hullinger who lives in Tooele assisted her by correlating with principals.
One program that caught her interest was Principal Ken Luke’s work to promote reading at East Elementary. Impressed with his efforts, Hullinger got Mary’s approval to provide $1,000 in books for East Elementary’s library.
“We used the money she donated to the school, matched it with some other moneys, so it created an excellent start for our leveled library,” Luke said.
In addition, Mrs. JoAn Coon, who teaches sixth-grade at East Elementary, “built up quite the science program,” according to Luke. She still uses a hot air balloon launcher, microscopes and math manipulatives purchased with Norris funds. In addition, they lend the hot air balloon launcher to other six grades in the district to help them learn about how heat moves.
Over a number of years, Norris donated items for “all over the curriculum.”
“Each year Rosemary would call me and tell me how much money they had and I would write up a grant,” Coon said. They helped with programs at other schools as well.
The Norris Foundation provided prizes for an after-school history/geography program and incentives to kids who raised their G.P.A.’s .
“They used to fund all of the junior high parties. They used to do a lot of stuff at the junior high too. Rosemary used to call it carrots for kids — rewards, treats. So, anything that would help reward the kids and help them learn,” Coon said.
Another program they funded was a stock market, using pretend money for math class. Prizes were awarded to the students who earned the most money.
The Norris family had earned a lot of its money from stocks and they felt knowlege of the stock market was crucial.
“They were always saying you need to invest in stocks, just little bits as you can, just when they were little, they were like you need to learn about it,” Hullinger said. “That’s real life, you need to learn how businesses are run and that was important to them.”
The scholarships and other educational programs were funded with money that Tom, a miner, had earned from mines he owned in Nevada and then invested successfully. Tom initiated the idea.
“I think it was Tom that started in Battle Mountain and Mary was like I want to do it in Tooele because that’s where I went to school,” Hullinger said.
Later, the twosome also helped educational programs in American Fork, where Mary’s daughter Joan lives.
“I would meet with principals and decide how the money was spent here in Tooele and then her daughter did American Fork,” Hullinger said. “Sometimes she had ideas. Sometimes I’d call and say what do you think about this one, and she’d usually said whatever you think.”
Mary’s influence has also been seen in the lives of her children, both of whom attended college. So far, seven of her grandchildren have graduated from school and others are still attending. In addition, her children and grandchildren all follow the stock market.
“Oh, they all invest in the stock market every single one of them and they follow it,” Hullinger said. “They’ll call us and say, ‘did you see what this stock did today’, so they follow it, they know what their money is doing.”
Today Johanna Leonelli, who works with scholarships through the Tooele High School counseling office, still sees the benefits of the scholarships.
“The fact that she supported students and Tooele’s students’ higher education for so long is really remarkable and we really appreciate that and I know the students really appreciate any help they can get financially,” Leonelli said.